FromQuarkstoQuasars

Real Invisibility Cloaks in the Works, Say Scientists

Jolene CreightonMarch 1st 2013
real invisibility closk
Image via Warner Bros/Paramount/Flikr/AP

It seems that each day brings us closer and closer to science fiction. You have probably heard about “invisibility cloaks” before, as they have been in the works for quite some time. Well, now you have a chance to see it for yourself. Recently, scientists unveiled a small cloak that causes the objects behind it to mysteriously vanish. Except, of course, that it’s not really “mysterious” at all. It’s science.

This small device is similar to the invisibility cloaks that can be seen on Star Trek (look out Klingons), Harry Potter, and a plethora of other science fiction/fantasy series. Essentially, the device bends light around an object, effectively concealing any item that is behind it. This cloak was developed by attaching two pieces of calcite (a carbonate mineral that can bend light). Currently, the device is rather small, and although it is possible to create a larger version (one that could conceal an entire person, or perhaps something even larger), at the present time, we lack the technology to create a flexible garment out of this dense, colorless mineral.

duke university invisibility cloak
Image via Nanyang Technological University

In truth, the device more closely resembles a small box than a “cloak” (a loose garment worn over clothing, like an overcoat). Since it is box-like, you could simply walk around the device and see whatever is behind it. In this respect, it’s a bit like hiding behind a cabinet or rock…it’s only really effective from a certain angle. So perhaps it’s not the best way to conceal yourself from your enemies (or other prying eyes)…you might want to just stick to camo paint for now.

This particular device (to the right) was created by Dr. Baile Zhang, an assistant professor of physics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Scientists at London’s Imperial College, Duke University, and the University of Texas are working on similar designs. In Texas, scientists successfully created a small invention that uses carbon nanotubes to make objects behind it disappear. At Duke, inventors used metamaterials to create a tiny cylinder that bends electromagnetic waves and makes objects vanish.

Although we aren’t quite at the stage to begin producing invisibility cloaks for a commercial market, with so many different scientific agencies working on this technology, many advancements are looming on the horizon.

Sometimes (not always…but sometimes), this world is an exciting and inspiring place.

 

 

 


WATCH: Real Invisibility Cloak in Action

 

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